Ravi Sentence: Fair and Balanced?

“I disenchanted both sides,” said New Jersey Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman, as he wound up the sentencing hearing of Dharun Ravi, the 20-year-old Rutgers student who was convicted of bias intimidation for spying on his roommate Tyler Clementi.

Whether you were looking for a harsh and extreme sentence or some form of leniency, Berman managed to find a sense of balance.

Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail and told to report on May 31. He was given conditional probation of three years, told to serve 300 hours of community service, undergo counseling for cyber-bullying and alternate lifestyles, and asked to pay a $10,000 fine, with the money to go to an organization dedicated to victims of bias crime.

In addition, the judge said he recommended that Ravi not be deported.

The prosecution had sought a much harsher sentence, and Ravi could have received up to ten years.

While Ravi did not address the judge, his parents did. His mother and father both gave emotional appeals for leniency. His mother broke down and cried several times. “Dharun’s dreams are shattered,” she said, “and he has been living in hell the last 20 months.”

Judge Berman was stern as he delivered his sentence. His opening comments did not seem favorable to Ravi, to whom he said, “This jury said guilty 288 times. I haven’t heard you apologize once.”

He also mentioned Tyler Clementi’s e-mailed comment that Ravi’s conduct was “wildly inappropriate.”I redacted it from the jury, but I didn’t redact it from myself.”

Said Berman: “You can expunge this judgment, but you can’t expunge the conduct or pain you caused.”

As the judge revealed his sentence, he keyed in on Ravi’s violation of his roommate’s trust, and how he had lied to police officers, and the “cold and calculated” way Ravi had tampered with evidence and potential witnesses.

But the judge cited how the neutral pre-sentencing report said Ravi was “unlikely to commit another crime” and would “respond to probationary treatment.”

The judge berated Ravi for “colossal insensitivity.”

Clementi committed suicide three days after the webcam spying incident. Ravi was not on trial for that, but for the privacy matter. Still the case seemed to morph into the murder of Tyler Clementi. And some feared that Ravi would be turned into a scapegoat.

But the judge was clear that the scope of his sentence would be limited to the facts. And then he mentioned how New Jersey’s bias crime law may not be appropriate for this case. The judge said he read the statutes in 39 states and said he didn’t think the legislature “envisioned this kind of behavior” when it adopted the law. He said bias statutes were used as “sentence enhancers for crimes associated with violent behavior.”

To me, Berman’s assessment seemed fair. I’ve been advocating leniency from day one.

That Tyler Clementi is dead is bad enough. This case didn’t need a second victim.

Image by AALDEF

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.

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